Blog Archives

Texas Institute of Investigation Open for Registration

Heidi Search Center logo


The Inaugural Class of the Texas Institute of Investigation is now taking registrations.

Registration is open now until October 15, 2016- space is limited.

CLICK HERE FOR REGISTRATION

When: October 19, 2016
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Where: Bexar County Commissioners Courtroom
Price: $175.00 donation to the Heidi Search Center (Terms: registration is non-refundable)

Class topics:

  • So you want to be a Private  Investigator?
  • Finding Your Niche
  • An Introduction to Missing Persons Cases
  • Attendees will receive a certificate at the end of the class.

The school will begin with a press conference held by County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, Jr. and other dignitaries throughout the day.

CLICK HERE FOR  REGISTRATION

Becoming a Texas Private Investigator – “So You Want to Be A PI?”

The private investigation profession continues to see increasing growth and popularity and attracts individuals from all walks of life and occupations. This class will present the history of the profession, detail the multiple investigation disciplines and how to become a licensed or registered PI in Texas

Finding Your Niche
This presentation will introduce ideas allowing the student to develop a private investigation career centered around their passion, unique skills, education, experience and dreams and make you stand out among your peers.

Missing Persons
This presentation is an introductory course on the  reasons that adults and children become missing, statistics, and the crimes associated with missing persons cases. Some recent case examples.

CLICK HERE FOR  REGISTRATION

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What Parents Need to Know about the Internet

A look back to how it used to be

1950s-TV-Set When I was a child we had 3 TV channels and two of them were snow.  Taking photos meant taking film to be developed by Kodak and waiting a week or more to be processed. We did not have call waiting, call forwarding or even caller ID. The closest thing we had to the internet was a set of World Book Encyclopedias, a very expensive set of books that all parents invested in to ensure their children had access to knowledge and could do their homework.

I was taught to never confirm our address over the phone and to not provide any information about our home, or my parents, to anyone who called that I did not know personally, and to NEVER, even to trusted friends, disclose whether I was home alone.

My father worked, my mother took care of me and had many social and community activities. She got me ready for school and was home when the school bus dropped me off in the afternoon. I would watch Gilligan’s Island and Leave it To Beaver.  Eddie Haskell was such a stinker and was probably the closest thing to a bad guy that ever entered my consciousness. I played outside, climbed trees, rode horses, and all the neighborhood adults watched out for all the kids, not just their own family.

Bad things happened back then, too

One sunny afternoon, I answered the phone and a male voice which I thought I recognized from church called and began saying very ugly, gross and repulsive sexual things to me. I didn’t know what to say or do as this had never happened to me before. I must have looked shocked because my mom saw my face, took the phone from me and hung up. I remember being sad because this man had ruined my beautiful day of riding my horses. I felt sick to my stomach when my mind kept re-playing his voice and his words. I was deeply disturbed by his call for the rest of that day and 2 more days. I was afraid I would see him somewhere and I was concerned as to why such bad things could be on this earth. I was even afraid to go to church. Luckily, it never happened again and I returned to normal quickly.

The day we received our World Book Encyclopedias, I sat for hours looking at photos and reading about amazing things a world away. Now, in an instant, I could read and learn about anything, anywhere in the world.

I now see such a different society for children. Not better or worse but definitely different.

How it is in today’s world

We are connected all the time. Children are connected, not just by a landline phone as I was, but through many applications of the internet, cell phone and cameras. We thrive on instant- instant connection, data downloads, responses and information, information, information!  Our phones can do anything, find any answer, move mountains of data, save screenshots, and forward with just a click and send.

Without a request, our locations, preferences, order history, and more are sent to places we don’t even know are watching our habits, behaviors and social connections.  Apps like Snap Chat, KIK, OVOO, Periscope and more are connecting people, places, images and conversations instantly and often leaving no trace.

These days, people like that man who called and disrupted my beautiful day can reach out with limitless access to information.

Children in today’s world, with unlimited access to knowledge and information, may not be aware of how the information they post and share can be used by someone who is gathering it to use for harm to them, or their family. Most young children, and even college age children, do not understand the schemes and tactics used by predators. The information you and your family share online may be similar to giving them the key to your front door.

As a child, I was in shock and didn’t know what to do as I was receiving that man’s gross fantasy, even though my mom was just a few feet away, I froze. I now understand that my child brain couldn’t hear him and at the same time formulate an effective escape. Imagine if he was also sending me images, telling me he saw me come home from school, threatening to hurt my mother! I would have been taken much further down his dark road.

The present challenge

3601525070_78444c9087_bIf our children are on the internet through online gaming, Facebook apps or other social media, they will be targeted. It’s not a question of if, but how many times.

As the Executive Director of Heidi Search Center I receive calls for help daily because a child has gone missing or is being targeted online. The number of predators looking for children is so numerous that we have to wade through them each time to find the missing person.

Parents and guardians are faced with many challenges that are vastly different from when my parents raised me. A young mind having access to instant information is amazing and beautiful, however, without protection it’s like giving the key to your home to every predator, con artist and schemer around the world.

Children are rightly confident that they can do so much more on the internet than their parents, however, this hubris from them is false. While they can make the internet bend to their will and do what they want, they don’t have the life experience or understanding about the evils that await them online. They don’t have knowledge of how a predator moves rapidly from the virtual world to reality in a flash.

One example, a child who was restricted from the internet by her parents due to messages they thought were inappropriate, went to visit her aunt who let her use the computer.  The adult male she was speaking with through texting apps mailed an iPod to her aunt’s house where no one knew she had received the device.

She began communicating and sending him photos of herself. She soon went missing, but he was arrested because he was found with illicit images of her on his phone, although she wasn’t with him. We went to two more adults, who were also arrested, before finding her in a very desolate place where there was no internet.

She has since returned to her family, however, her parents and family expended all their resources looking for her. Jobs, money, time, emotion; the damage was extensive, relationships were damaged, lives and careers altered.

Siblings are often traumatized and become fearful for their own safety, overly concerned for their parents, as well as the missing person. Parents cannot sleep, eat, work, pay bills or even attend necessary appointments while their child is missing.

Teachers, friends, peers, and even people the missing person doesn’t know are all affected adversely.

Psychology Today  report claimed that when a loved one goes missing the trauma caused is more painful than death.  “The pain of your child dying is incredible, but losing a child to estrangement is unbearable, it hurts so, so much more.” A quote from a mother of twins, one who died of cancer and the other who was estranged.

Children, adults, and minors need to understand the dangers of the internet and the ways that predators use different apps to their advantage. Children also need to understand the pain caused by their absence, whether their idea or someone else’s. They must adapt to the use of technology in an informed way.

Parents need to be educated and informed so they can make appropriate parenting decisions. It will not do to be absent from social media and ignorant of the ways it’s intertwined in their children’s lives. To do so is to invite pain suffering and predators into your life.

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster is the Executive Director of Heidi Search Center and is also affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She heads their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.

Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.

She is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting,  has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.

To schedule trainings in your community and become involved in making your area safe for victims and their families, and hostile to traffickers, contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-0859 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

Missing Persons and Human Trafficking

Heidi Search Center logo

I’m so honored to have been selected as the new Executive Director of the Heidi Search Center. I’ve been guided to the field of missing persons by many who work around me and saw the natural fit between my work in the issue of human trafficking and how it relates to missing persons.

I’ve been called to work on several cases in the past that started as missing persons, and of course we found human trafficking to be the reason the people were missing. In some cases, we found the loved one alive and in a couple of cases we found the missing person deceased due to the trafficking activities.

Now, I’m in a new world, discovering the many reasons that people go missing. It could be a flood, due to a rip tide, a runaway, an accident, mental illness, or in one case, a husband who went to Vegas and was arrested; happy he was alive, however not so healthy for his marriage.

I hope this will be a successful venture, finding answers for the families that ask for our help. The statistics for the center show resolution for 94% of the cases that are brought to us. Keeping the center’s good record and the daunting task to keep the success rate at this impressive number is just one of my goals.

From all appearances it looks like the center will have a record number of cases this year. Instead of a decrease, we are experiencing an overwhelming increase in cases coming into the center. Our services are free to the families, and there are no grants to support us.

In the 1990’s when 11-year-old Heidi Seeman went missing, there were thousands of people who stopped what they were doing and looked for her. Heidi was found within weeks murdered, her body located around an hour’s drive from where she went missing.

In 2015, we are finding that many children and adults go missing due to someone they met on the internet. The search has now moved from local to global, and often with little to no way to narrow down the possibilities. Parents are at a disadvantage with a knowledge gap between their kids and the use of technology. The younger generation can make the internet do almost anything they want, however, they do not have the life experience to understand the Pandora’s box they are opening. Parents are doing the right things and controlling devices, however the parents do not know that as soon as the child leaves home that they are connected again at school, their fiends house, and even their grandparent’s home.

I’ve learned to remind adults it’s not if their child is targeted by criminals, but how many times.

I hope we can decrease the need for our services, and I plan to continue to educate parents and children this year, the 25th year of service for Heidi Search Center.  I’m ready for the adventure and I hope you will join us with your support.

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster is also affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She heads their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.

As a weekly Co-Host on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Roth Show, Laster presents discussion and guests who speak out about a variety of controversial subjects surrounding the abolishment of human trafficking and corresponding crimes.

Dottie Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.

Dottie Laster is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting which has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.

To schedule trainings in your community and become involved in making your area safe for victims and their families, and hostile to traffickers, contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-0859 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

Historical and Modern Slavery Collide

Frederick Douglass home

Frederick Douglass home today

 

Notes from 2013 on a trip to Washington and visit to the home of Frederick Douglass:

I had been a bit tired lately and quite frankly a bit beaten by the work I do. This rarely happens but when it does it is due to such loss and destruction of souls that I sometimes witness. I was in search of something to amaze and inspire me but could not think of what it would be. Soon after this feeling began, I was hosted at an event in Washington. Since, I live in Texas this was a rare treat. While in D.C., I made time to go to the home of Frederick Douglass. I have studied Douglass and his writings since I was a young child. I was always so amazed by a man who freed himself by not recognizing the legitimacy of his enslavement. In a time when it was illegal to educate slaves he learned to read and write and later was the editor of newspapers and authored books.

In a time when the American Dream was not available to him he struggled and overcame the legal and social barriers that blocked him from his freedom. After becoming free, he could have stopped there however he continued to combat the institutions that discriminated against and enslaved others. He was a strong advocate for women’s rights, the poor (black, white or any race), improved education, and for prison reform.

He excelled in education, languages, family life and served his country in numerous ways though public service. He was a U.S. ambassador to Haiti, a U.S. Marshall, advisor to Lincoln and four other presidents.

In 2007, I was so fortunate to meet a direct descendant of Frederick Douglas, Ken Morris. I could not believe my fortune. Now, I proudly serve on the board of advisors to the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. So when given the amazing opportunity to see where my historical mentor and hero lived I took it with gusto. Since I am unfamiliar with Washington, I had no idea what this meant.

Finding the Frederick Douglass home

Cedar Hill, home of Frederick Douglass

Cedar Hill

I found a wonderful taxi driver and we began our journey. At first my GPS was confused by the address. The driver also could not recognize the address. We stopped and asked taxi drivers at two hotels and no one knew where it was. I was so confused, how could no one know where this amazing’s man’s house was located in a city he had made such a presence?

So finally, thanks to Google, we found the address. I showed my phone to the driver and suddenly all the confusion was clear to him. He said, no wonder- it is in a place in D.C. that is very dangerous. He said are you sure you want to go? I exclaimed, Yes! I told him about my work and how important Douglass was to helping me combat modern slavery. He said, OK, I will take you.

So we were to drive only 5 miles but it turned into another world. We crossed the Anacostia River and exited the freeway. There he so politely said I know you are from Texas but it would be very unethical for me to leave you here- he told me that there was a recent time when there were one to two bodies a day found due to murder, drugs and other crimes. He said they would know immediately that I was not from the neighborhood. I rarely yield to fear of bad neighborhoods however at this time his advice was appropriate.

I giggled and said yes I agree that I would stand out- as we drove by a group of people who all looked to under the influence of several substances. He also told me this area was known for drugs, weapons and prostitution. I thought how disrespectful to my historical hero that in the shadow his home, a symbol of his overcoming historical slavery, modern slavery was flourishing. I was truly angered. I kept thinking the tour is free- why don’t they all take it and understand that they are willingly forfeiting their freedom to criminal enterprises? If Douglass were alive I am sure he would be addressing them. The “Sage of Anacostia” would not remain silent.

So we made arrangements that my driver, Mosh, would drop me off and come back. When we arrived at the home which is a national park we found it was not open yet. My driver looked as if he was again struggling with ethics. He said, I cannot leave you here while they are closed- you will not be safe. I must say I agreed- so again we discussed what to do- it ended with he would stay with me- I agreed to pay his rate with the stipulation that he take the tour with me. He happily agreed.

As I was worried such a wonderful park would be crowded and the tour at capacity, we had arrived 45 minutes before they opened. We drove around and spoke about the city, Douglass, life in the 1800’s and what a beautiful day it was. When the first park ranger arrived we followed him in the service entrance. There, we were able to sit at the top of the very elevated property and see Washington as Douglass must have seen it every morning. It was so breath-taking. The home was on the highest point and the land below was flat and could not obstruct the amazing view. We talked about Douglass and how he must have been able to see visitors approaching his home as far away and the Anacostia River. We spoke about the strenuous life one must have lived even in a fine house such as his- hauling water and materials, walking or riding everywhere and being your own security force in a time where just by being alive he created enemies.

Then the park opened and we went on a tour- again more amazement!

Description of the Frederick Douglass home

Douglass’ house was a grand 2-story home with cutting edge additions for the time- he had a washroom built for his wife before people washed their clothes indoors, indoor water, and the most family centered home one could imagine.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, my historical mentor

He had achieved the American dream in spite of all the harsh barriers of the time and his most horrific entrance into the world through the system of slavery. He was successful in education, family, finances and health. My new friend, Mosh and I left so inspired and humbled by our experience that we now stay in touch. I cannot wait to return and learn more about what is possible in the face of adversity.

However, it also reminded me of the many struggles we as a society face today. All I could think of is why does the community around this home allow criminal elements to flourish? It is so disrespectful to themselves and to those who came before them. What would Frederick Douglass do?

In my heart I felt that he would not relax, that he would not rest or recognize the situation as legitimate.

So with an inspired heart and determination I returned home and began again- combating these same elements wherever I am called. It just reminded me that modern slavery occurs everywhere- not just in the shadow of Douglass’ house- it is disrespectful and damaging everywhere and must be disrupted.

Thank you Frederick Douglass for reinvigorating my heart, my drive and my passion. Your efforts pass through time and have given me steam to proceed – I can’t wait to visit you again.-

Dottie Laster

Marisol Nichols, Terry Crews, Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster is affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She created their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.

As a weekly Co-Host on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Roth Show, Laster presents discussion and guests who speak out about a variety of controversial subjects surrounding the abolishment of human trafficking and corresponding crimes.

Dottie Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.

Dottie Laster is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting which has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.

To bring Dottie Laster to your community or event, please contact ImaginePublicity, Tel: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

Historical and Modern Slavery Collide

Cans of Soda: The Marketing of Commercial Sex

commercial sex, Dottie Laster, human trafficking

I am often looking for ways to visualize (that are not too offensive) and to explain the tactics used by traffickers so that they are easily understood. I came up with the analogy of cans of soda and their marketing.

We all know that soda is sugar, water, flavors and dyes- to make it simple- it’s nothing more than flavored sugar and water in a can combined with branding, marketing, design and a promise of a “dream come true” or to live an “exciting fantasy.”

Commercial Sex and Marketing Flavors

When trying to explain commercial sex it’s like explaining cans of soda, just different flavors marketed as a fantasy, or a dream to purchase. It is as false as believing that Red Bull actually gives you wings, or that polar bears are happy and playful after drinking Coca Cola – at Christmas- with seals. ( I do love that one)

Stripping, pornography, escorts, cantinas (pony bars), Asian massage parlors, swingers, outcalls from websites, and BDSM are all just like brands of soda marketed for various tastes. Advertising for commercial sex, these tastes are created, manipulated, and marketed, primarily to a male audience.

In the documentary Sex + Money a pornographer states, “…there are many sick people in the world- we are just here to make money off of them… there are only a few ways people have sex so we have to create other ways to encourage consumption of our product such as violence, younger, and more disturbed scenes in order to create an ongoing demand.”

So cans of soda are created- new flavors invented and markets expanded.

To feed the demand of commercial sex a supply must be created. Force, fraud and coercion are used and the marketing campaigns are overwhelmingly targeted to men.

If women don’t want to buy sex, why would they line up in droves to sell sex many times a day, up to 40 in some cases.

Maybe an energy drink, or purchased sex, can give you wings or make polar bears smile?

Or perhaps it’s all just a marketing scheme, or scam.

Cans of Soda: The Marketing of Commercial Sex